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Comparing modern Western fighters

Posted by picard578 on January 11, 2014

Introduction

This article will compare Western fighters that have entered service in late 1970s or later, and are still in service. “Western” in this context means Canada, United States as well as European countries that were not part of Warshaw pact. Thus list of fighter aircraft to be compared is:

United States: F-15, F-16, F-18, F-22, F-35

United Kingdom, Italy, Germany: Typhoon

France: Rafale

Sweden: Gripen C

Measures to be used in comparision

As has been discussed in Pierre Sprey’s fighter effectiveness study, as well as several of articles written by myself, to win air battles pilot needs to:

  1. surprise the opponent without being surprised
  2. outnumber enemy in the air
  3. outmaneuver the enemy to gain firing position
  4. outlast the enemy while outmaneuvering him
  5. achieve reliable kills

Additional requirement are low operating costs and good reliability, allowing extensive pilot training – this is possibly the most important point, since pilot skill dominates all others.

Surprising the enemy without being surprised

Surprise lets pilot to destroy the enemy aircraft at little risk to himself, and is number one factor in gaining kills, especially at beyond visual range as BVR missiles are comparatively easily defeated. To surprise the enemy, fighter aircraft has to detect and identify hostile aircraft more quickly and consistently than the enemy, as well as be hard to detect itself. Consequently, it must be capable of finding and attacking the enemy without use of active sensors – onboard or offboard – in order to achieve surprise, and minimum or no usage of uplinks. Avoiding the surprise is important to prevent the enemy from surprising oneself.

To surprise the enemy, following characteristics are required:

  1. visual invisibility
    1. visible engine smoke
    2. physical size (top, side and front)
    3. camouflage
  2. electronic invisibility
    1. usage of active sensors (radar, laser)
    2. communications and uplinks
  3. infrared invisibility
  4. cruise speed advantage

1. Visual invisibility

Engine smoke can increase detection distance by a factor of 3 to 5 if engine is smoking heavily. This increases volume of the sky by a factor of 9 to 25 (vertical distance is ignored due to ground and enemy’s cruise altitude constraints). If enemy aircraft do not smoke, then it also solves IFF problem. In the absence of smoke, visual size and camouflage govern the detection distance; however, most modern fighters have similar gray camouflage so it will be ignored.

2. Electronic invisibility

Electronic invisibility is governed by wether radar and other sources of electronic transmissions are on or off. Radar is the most powerful and easily detected of these sources. It also gives enemy a missile launch warning, since lock-on means that missile launch is imminent. It can also be used for IFF as all US fighter radars operate at frequencies between 8 and 12 GHz in order to gain an all-weather capability, which means that enemy can either not use radar at all or operate outside these frequencies to solve the IFF problem. RCS reduction is a useful defense against X-band ground-based search and engagement radars, but not so against VHF ground radars and enemy fighters.

3. Infrared invisibility

Infrared invisibility also depends on several factors. Most obvious one is engine’s thrust – stronger engine results in a higher IR signature for equal thrust setting. Afterburner plume however means a massive increase in IR signature, especially from the rear, which means that a supercruising fighter may have advantage even if other factors are against it. Next factor is size of the aircraft itself – larger aircraft means more drag and larger surface area to heat up; since IR sensors have resolution limits, larger size means that aircraft will be detected sooner. Lastly, there are various measures that can be taken to cool down either engine exhaust or airframe.

4. Cruise speed advantage

Since fighter’s main sensors typically point forward, and pilot is likely to give most attention to this area, surprise is best gained by a passive rear-quadrant approach. This is best achieved by cruising faster than the enemy; since afterburner uses up too much fuel. For this reason, maximum speed values are near-irrelevant when compared to cruise speed values.

To avoid surprise, same characteristics are required. One also has to be able to detect enemy bounces, which requires 360* situational awareness.

Outnumbering the enemy in the air

Outnumbering the enemy in the air is dependant on a) number of aircraft bought for the price and b) number of sorties flown per aircraft per day. This also helps other characteristics: since aircraft’s performance is dependant primarly on the pilot, and pilots need to fly in order to remain proficient, more reliable and easier to maintain aircraft can turn out to be superior in combat to more complex one irrespective of other factors.

In fact, even Manfred vs Richtofen had stated that most important things were pilot skills and numbers. Over the Bekaa Valley, Israeli Air Force had far better pilots, and outnumbered Syrian Air Force 3:2. In both Gulf Wars, Iraqi Air Force was doomed by incompetent pilots and Coalition’s numerical advantage.

Outmaneuvering the enemy

If the enemy is not shot down unaware, maneuvering combat will ensue in which enemies will try to get in the best position for the kill; this is equally true in beyond visual range and within visual range combat.

Following parameters decide aircraft’s maneuvering performance:

  1. roll onset rate at angle of attack
  2. instantaneous turn rate
  3. pitch onset rate / pitch rate
  4. acceleration
  5. sustained turn rate

Not all parameters are equally important; in visual-range combat, roll onset rate, instantaneous turn rate and acceleration are most important for purpose of getting within opponent’s observe-orient-decide-act loop and to avoid his missile and gun fire; pilot will use high-g breaks and rolls to remain unpredictable, using acceleration bursts to keep energy up as much as possible. In beyond visual range combat, sustained turn rate gains importance as both opponents have more time to react, and energy is typically held up to make missile evasion easier. Maximum acceleration capability can be compared by comparing maximum climb rates.

Maximum turn rate depends on lift coefficient and wing loading. As lift coefficient can only be determined experimentally, comparision here will be based on the wing loading. Even more important is transient performance which itself is decided by a roll onset rate at various angles of attack, as well as a time to pitch up to maximum g and back down to 1 g flight. Classically defined handling qualities are only important so far as they insure safe execution of maneuvers; however, modern fighters often sacrifice abruptness of transition (roll and pitch) for smoothness and safety, which harms combat-relevant qualities – violence and unpredictability of maneuver.

Outlasting the enemy

If combatants are matched closely enough (either both having aircraft and pilots of similar skill levels, or one pilot’s advantage in skill exactly nullifying opponent’s advantage in aircraft performance) then outcome of combat will be decided by which combatant runs out of the fuel first; that is, by fighter’s persistence. Persistence is dictated by fuel consumption rate during combat and by fuel capacity; while higher-thrust fighter might consume fuel at higher rate than lower-thrust fighter at equivalent thrust setting, it can also throttle down and thus conserve the fuel. Thus comparing fixed time at either maximum dry power or maximum afterburner is not useful. Persistance is however very sensitive to fuel fraction, that is amount of fuel as percentage of fighter’s clean takeoff weight.

Achieving reliable kills

Being able to achieve firing opportunity does not mean much if one cannot turn opportunity into the kill. Weapons should be combared under unfavorable combat conditions: time pressure, unfavorable aspect angle, multiple targets, background clutter and an intelligent enemy.

Maximum weapons’ range is limited by the range at which reliable identification can be achieved and by weapon’s own engagement range. Aspect is determined by the kinematics of the engagement. Duration during which a kill can be achieved is determined by situation – in visual-range dogfight, it is no more than several seconds, while in beyond-visual range combat, it may be much longer, though reduction in timeframe is still useful. Different weapons also require different times from opportunity to breakaway; longer time means that fighter is more vulnerable to being attacked, and requires more time between kills. Times beyond 7-9 seconds also mean unacceptable vulnerability; time to use gun is 3-6 seconds, for IR missile is 5-7 seconds and for radar-guided missile 6-15 seconds.

Fighter should also carry a sufficient ammo for multiple engagements, determined by a number of on-board kills. This means that weapons carried should have high Pk both individually and total Pk. Pk for weapon is always far lower than in tests – before Vietnam, missile lethality was overstated by a factor of 10. As different weapons are vulnerable to different – and some common – countermeasures, weapons should complement each other so that countermeasure to one weapon may create an opportunity for achieving kill with another weapon. Vulnerability to countermeasure is less relevant provided that weapon can be used in surprise attacks, which radar missiles cannot. Both radar and IR missiles can have problems with clutter, but radar missiles are more vulnerable to target breaking lock through maneuvering.

For guns, probability of kill is driven by firing acceleration, lethality per round and projectile velocity. Acceleration is important since most firing opportunities in combat are very brief, so it becomes important to put large number of rounds in the air nearly instantaneously (within 1 second or less); even then only few rounds will actually hit. Similarly, high projectile velocity is required to increase probability of hit.

Imaging IR missiles may be vulnerable to DIRCM, but exact vulnerability is questionable. They are vulnerable to target evading the missile.

Radar-guided missile can have their lock broken, or be outmaneuvered. Their seekers can also be jammed Fuze jammers can be effective against missiles using radar fuzing. regardless of seeker type.

Comparision

Surprising the enemy without being surprised

With visual detection, largest aircraft are first to be noticed. All aircraft have largest signature when watched from the top or bottom; relative sizes can be seen here:

 visual

As it can be seen, F-22, far from being the least visible, is the largest of all fighters compared. Smallest is Saab’s Gripen, while Rafale, Typhoon and F-35 are halfway between them. Frontal and side visual signature is going to be larger for stealth aircraft than for non-stealth aircraft of similar size and configuration, though external stores can reduce the difference when it comes to the side signature.

While engine smoke can be a major contributor to aircraft’s visual signature, most if not all fighters compared do not smoke heavily, at least when cruising. Camouflage is also similar.

Requirement for surprise also means that usage of active sensors is out of the window. While there are ways to make radar LPI (frequency hopping), modern radar warners can cover far more than just X band, and radar’s transmitted power must always be far greater than noise to compensate for losses in reflection – absolute minimum requirement is for a signal to be several hundred times stronger than background noise as less than 1% of signal that reaches enemy fighter deflects back towards the emitter. Fighter aircraft which do not have passive sensors capable of detecting the enemy at beyond visual range are at disadvantage. Out of fighters compared, all of them have radar warning receivers; however, it must not be expected that a competent opponent will use radar himself. Consequently, IRST is primary sensor of modern fighter aircraft. Typically it works much like older mechanically scanned radars of older fighters, scanning the area in front of the fighter to find the opponent; modern QWIP IRSTs like PIRATE and OSF can detect typical subsonic fighter aircraft head-on at distances of 90 and 80 km, respectively; from the rear, distance increases to 145 and 130 km, while all distances noted are 10% greater against supercruising target. Using the afterburner can be expected to greatly increase detection distance from sides and rear, and somewhat from the front, compared to a supercruising fighter of similar size and aerodynamic configuration. Only aircraft on the list that are capable of supercruising in combat configuration are F-22 (M 1,7), Rafale (M 1,4) and Typhoon (M 1,5). F-22 does not have IRST, while Rafale’s OSF and Typhoon’s PIRATE are quite close in performance parameters (as can be seen from range figures noted). As a result, Rafale and Typhoon are the only fighters on the list capable of consistently surprising the enemy; F-35s IRST is not meant for air-to-air combat and F-35 itself is incapable of supercruise, F-22 is capable of supercruise but does not have IRST, while all other fighters do not have either IRST or supercruise capability.

As IRST does not cover the rear sector of any of the aircraft compared, avoiding the surprise is reliant on cockpit visibility and other sensors. All fighters except Gripen and F-35 have acceptably good rearward visibility, but F-35 is the only aircraft except Rafale to posses the imaging infrared sensors that cover rear of the aircraft, and the only one so far to possess full spherical situational awareness. While both Rafale’s Detecteur De Missile and F-35s Distributed Aperture System are primarly missile warning devices, their nature allows them to be used as a short-ranged IRSTs or IR cameras. This capability is not yet operational in either aircraft, and on the F-35 at least, it may never be. Even if issues with F-35s helmet are solved, its display is inherently inferior to the human eye. This means that F-35, with its lack of rearward visibility, is at danger at being surprised by a faster-cruising adversary. All fighters also have very capable radar warning systems. While these can be used for detecting and identifying the enemy, only F-22, Rafale and possibly Typhoon and F-35 have ability to use them for BVR engagement.

When everything is taken into account, aircraft can be rated 1. Rafale, 2. Typhoon, 3. F-22, 4. F-35, 5. Gripen, 6. F-16, 7. F-18, 8. F-15.

Outnumbering the enemy in the air

Outnumbering the enemy is depentant on generating large number of sorties. This is calculated by number of fighter aircraft procured for same amount of money times number of sorties per day per aircraft. For this comparision, 10 billion USD total procurement cost will be used.

Unit flyaway costs when adjusted for inflation to FY 2013 USD are 126 million USD for F-15C, 70 million USD for F-16C, 68 million USD for F-18C, 273 million USD for F-22A, 188 million USD for F-35A, 127 million USD for Typhoon, 95 million USD for Rafale C and 44 million USD for Gripen C, all in FY2013 USD. As a result, 10 billion USD gives 79 F-15Cs, 142 F-16Cs, 147 F-18Cs, 36 F-22As, 53 F-35As, 78 Typhoons, 105 Rafales and 227 Gripens.

Fighter aircraft is worthless if it doesn’t fly, so value required is number of sorties that given force can generate per day. Number of sorties per aircraft per day is 1 for F-15, 1,2 for F-16 and F-18, 0,5 for F-22, 0,3 for F-35,

Rating is thus 1. Gripen, 2. Rafale, 3. F-18, 4. F-16, 5. Typhoon, 6. F-15, 7. F-22, 8. F-35.

Outmaneuvering the enemy

Roll onset rate is determined by aircraft’s responsitivity to control inputs, which includes efficiency of control surfaces as well as roll inertia. Roll inertia itself is very sensitive to wing span and vertical location of aircraft’s center of mass relative to center of lift. Latter however is similar for most fighters, as they have to fulfill basic stability parameters to achieve controlled flight. Instantaneous turn rate is dependant on lift-to-weight ratio, approximated by wing loading, while acceleration can be determined by climb rate. Ability to sustain turn meanwhile can be approximated by thrust-to-weight ratio.

F-15 has very classical wing-tail aerodynamic configuration and wing span of over 13 meters. This results in comparatively sluggish transient performance (roll response at maximum Angle of Attack is poor), especially when coupled with large inertia due to heavy weight. Instantaneous turn rate is good due to the low wing loading of 278 kg/m2 at combat weight of 15.729 kg. Instantaneous turn rate is 25,5 deg/s and sustained turn rate is 12,85 deg/s.

F-16 is the only USAF fighter ever designed specifically to perform well in dogfight. F-16C has good thrust-to-weight ratio of around 1,2 at combat weight and good transient performance, but its turning ability is harmed by high wing loading (almost 400 kg/m2 at combat weight of 10.936 kg) and inability to reach 32 degrees of angle of attack it requires for maximum lift – widening of the nose for the larger radar resulted in unacceptable lack of directional stability at higher angles of attack, resulting in it being limited by flight control software to a maximum of 25,52 degrees. Sharp LERX and high degree of wing-body blending does result in large amount of body lift, and unlike statically stable F-15, horizontal tail surfaces add to lift when turning. Relatively low 40* wing sweep angle does result in comparatively low drag when turning. Instantaneous turn rate is 26 deg/s and sustained turn rate is 18 deg/s.

F-18 is another fighter that came out as a result of lightweight fighter competition. It does not have as good turn and transient performance as F-16 (it is limited to 7,5 g and its greater wingspan hurts roll performance), but is not AoA limited as much as F-16 is, being capable of achieving 50 degrees AoA. Combat weight is 13.505 kg, resulting in wing loading of 355 kg/m2 and thrust-to-weight ratio of 1,19.

F-22 is a replacement for F-15 and has similar aerodynamic configuration. Its instantaneous turn and pitch rates are better than those of the F-15 due to its more refined aerodynamics, particularly 70*-sweepback LERX which generates strong vortex over the wing, delaying air flow separation. Wing sweep is 48*, resulting in a lower drag when turning. It also has improved transient performance. Combat weight is 24.579 kg, with wing loading of 314 kg/m2 and thrust-to-weight ratio of 1,29. Instantaneous turn rate is 35 deg/s and sustained turn rate is 28 deg/s at 20.000 ft.

F-35 is allegedly an F-16 replacement, but its instantaneous turn rate is lower than F-16s due to higher wing loading and weight (18.270 kg and 428 kg/m2 at combat weight). High drag and comparably low thrust-to-weight ratio (1,07 at combat weight) mean that it cannot accelerate well, and also cannot sustain turn rate. Roll onset rate in level flight should be about as good if not better than F-16s, but roll performance at angle of attack is likely inferior to F-16s due to weaker vortices. Instantaneous turn rate is 26,5 deg/s and sustained turn rate is 11 deg/s.

Typhoon has acceptable instantaneous and sustained turn rates due to its low wing loading and high thrust-to-weight ratio, however its roll performance is lacking. Pitch rate is good as it has long moment arm canards, but canards do not help lift or wing control surface effectiveness so it may not be better than Rafale’s or Gripen’s. Comparably high wing sweep results in high drag when turning, but also allows excellent acceleration performance when combined with high thrust-to-weight ratio. Climb rate is 315 meters per second maximum, and 200+ meters per second in air policing configuration. Instantaneous turn rate is 35 deg/s and sustained turn rate is 27 deg/s.

Rafale has close coupled canards, LERX and anhedral wings. Vortexes created by canards and LERX keep air flow connected to the wings even at comparably high angles of attack, thus improving turn rate, improving wing responsiveness to control surface inputs, and keeping trailling-edge control surfaces effective, while wing-body blending means that it also has large amount of body lift while turning. Close coupled canards also cause vortex lift to start earlier, thus reducing drag for given lift. This results in excellent transient performance (roll onset and pitch onset rate) and excellent instantaneous turn rate, though sustained turn rate is lower than F-22s due to lower thrust-to-weight ratio. Climb rate is 305 meters per second maximum, implying marginally lower acceleration than Typhoon’s, and 250+ meters per second in air policing configuration. Instantaneous turn rate is 36 deg/s and sustained turn rate is 27 deg/s.

Gripen has mostly all aerodynamic advantages of Rafale, but lack of LERX and higher wing loading mean that its instantaneous rate is likey slightly lower. More importantly, canard dihedral and lack of wing anhedral result in lowered roll and roll onset rate. Sustained turn rate is harmed by very low thrust-to-weight ratio, as is acceleration, though low drag due to good aerodynamical configuration compensates for it somewhat. Climb rate is quoted as 254 meters per second maximum and 200+ meters per second in air policing configuration.

So getting all characteristics together:

Following parameters decide aircraft’s maneuvering performance: (8 aircraft)

1) roll onset rate at angle of attack = Rafale > Gripen > F-22 > F-35 > F-16 > Typhoon > F-18 > F-15

2) instantaneous turn rate = Rafale > Gripen (?) > Typhoon > F-22 > F-15 > F-16 > F-18 > F-35

3) pitch onset rate / pitch rate = Rafale > Gripen > F-22 > Typhoon > F-16 > F-18 > F-35 > F-15

4) acceleration = F-22 > Rafale > Typhoon > F-15 > F-16 > Gripen > F-18 > F-35

5) sustained turn rate = F-22 > Typhoon = Rafale > F-15 > F-16 > Gripen > F-18 > F-35

Total score:

Rafale: 40 + 32 + 24 + 14 + 6 = 116

Gripen: 35 + 28 + 21 + 6 + 3 = 93

F-22: 30 + 20 + 18 + 16 + 8 = 92

F-35: 25 + 4 + 6 + 2 + 1 = 38

F-16: 20 + 12 + 12 + 8 + 4 = 56

Typhoon: 15 + 24 + 15 + 12 + 7 = 73

F-18: 10 + 8 + 9 + 4 + 2 = 33

F-15: 5 + 16 + 3 + 10 + 5 = 39

Rating is thus 1. Rafale, 2. Gripen, 3. F-22, 4. Typhoon, 5. F-16, 6. F-15, 7. F-35, 8. F-18.

It should be noted that due to weight differences, Gripen is likely to match or at least come close to Rafale, and Typhoon to match or surpass F-22. During high-speed high-altitude flight classical control surfaces become less effective; at supersonic speeds, center of pressure also moves backwards, resulting in an aerodynamically stable aircraft. F-22 uses thrust vectoring in part to deal with this problem, while Typhoon uses control surfaces positioned in front of the wing; however, close-coupled canards keep center of pressure forward, as well as improving control surface effectiveness. As such, relative rating as outlined remains true in entire speed range, from very slow speeds sometimes achieved in gun-only dogfight up to supersonic speeds. Further, this rating assumes that F-35 has delivered on all premises; in current state (18* AoA, 5 g maximum) it falls to the solid last place.

Outlasting the enemy

As already noticed, persistence is determined by fuel fraction; fuel fraction for fighters is 0,33 for Rafale C, 0,31 for Typhoon, 0,28 for Gripen C, 0,29 for F-22, 0,38 for F-35A, 0,29 for F-15C, 0,27 for F-16C, and 0,31 for F-18C. Only Gripen, F-18 and F-35 have thrust-to-weight ratio below 1,1 at combat weight, and below 1 at air-to-air takeoff weight; F-15 however experiences afterburner flameoff issues. F-35 is also most draggy of fighters compared relative to thrust avaliable, while Gripen is the second least draggy relative to its size, bettered only by Rafale.

Rating is thus 1. Rafale, 2. Typhoon, 3. F-22, 4. F-16C, 5. Gripen C, 6. F-15C, 7. F-35A, 8. F-18C.

Achieving reliable kills

Main weapons used by fighters are BVR missiles, WVR missiles and guns. As has been mentioned, main aspect in achieving kills is surprise, followed by time: times beyond 7-9 seconds also mean unacceptable vulnerability; time to use gun is 3-6 seconds, for IR missile is 5-7 seconds and for radar-guided missile 6-15 seconds. Against competent opponent, revolver or linear action guns have achieved probability of kill of 0,3, rotary guns of 0,26, WVR missiles of 0,15, and BVR missiles of 0,08.

In beyond visual range combat, surprise can be achieved only by being able to target and attack the enemy completely passively. This requires not only passive sensors (which has been discussed in first subsection) but also missiles with completely passive seeker head. Only Western beyond visual range missile with IR seeker is French MICA, used by Dassault Rafale; this gives Rafale a large advantage in surprising the enemy. Additional benefits are shorter lock-on time, as well as missile’s lesser vulnerability to countermeasures (missile is completely passive, achieving surprise; imaging IR missiles are less vulnerable to countermeasures than active radar missiles, and are also less vulnerable to having lock broken by target’s maneuvers). Typhoon, F-22, F-35 and possibly Gripen can all fire at enemy completely passively by using enemy’s radar emissions, same as Rafale can; they are however handicapped by using missiles with active seeker head, thus warning the opponent even if his missile warning sensors do not detect the missile.

In within visual range combat, revolver and linear action guns typically achieved probability of kill of around 0,31-0,34, while rotary cannons achieved probability of kill of 0,26. Important factors are lethality per round and number of rounds fired in first 1 second. These two factors can be combined into total energy of ammo thrown in first second. All guns are listed here. Energy per projectile is 144,5 kJ for Rafale’s GIAT-30, 136,6 kJ for Typhoon/Gripen’s BK-27, 55,13 kJ for F-22s M61A2, 52,6 kJ for F-15s/F-16/F-18s M61A1, 108,3 kJ for F-35s GAU-12/U. Number of projectiles fired in 1 second is 41 for GIAT-30, 28 for BK-27, 87 for M61A2, 88 for M61A1 and 56 for GAU-12U. However, F-22 will only fire 37 projectiles in first second as trap doors need 0,5 seconds to open; likewise, F-35 will only fire 21 projectiles in the same time.

As a result, energies for 1 second since pressing the trigger are 5,92 MJ for Rafale, 3,82 MJ for Typhoon and Gripen, 2,04 MJ for F-22, 2,27 MJ for F-35 and 4,64 MJ for US teen-series fighters.

As far as gun energies are concerned, aircraft can be rated 1. Rafale, 2. F-15, F-16, F-18, 3. Typhoon, Gripen, 4. F-35 (A variant only), 5. F-22. Fact that Typhoon and Gripen use revolver guns could push them above US teen-series fighters. Visual-range missiles for all fighters are IR based, and there is no major effectiveness difference except for the fact that both F-22 and F-35 use internal missile carriage which increases firing time.

Thus score is:

Guns: Rafale 5, Gripen/Typhoon 4, F-15/16/18 3, F-35 2, F-22 1.

WVR missiles: Gripen/Typhoon 5, Rafale 4, F-15/16/18 3, F-22/35 2.

BVR missiles: Rafale 5, others 4.

In total, rating for achieving reliable kills is 1. Rafale, 2. Gripen, Typhoon, 3. US teen-series fighters, 4. F-35, 5. F-22.

Conclusion

As it can be seen, Rafale is best by far in all effectiveness characteristics except for outnumbering the opponent, where it is bettered by Gripen. F-22 and F-35, the “most advanced”, and certainly most expensive, fighters in the world, do not get above 3rd place in any of criteria, while Typhoon – which is more expensive than Rafale but less so than F-22 and F-35 – achieves no more than 2nd place in any of the criteria. Reason is difference in approach – Dassault had experience and money, Saab had experience, and Eurofighter had the money. Lockheed Martin had money but it was not interested in desigining effective fighters; rather, its interest was to suck money from the US Government, which means desigining outrageously expensive, and consequently ineffective, fighters; reason why F-22 turned out (relatively) well is that Lockheed Martin was helped out by General Dynamics. But even Rafale, for all its qualities, is far from perfect, and it is comparatively easy to design a fighter which will better it in most or all characteristics. Rating with everything except numbers would result in following: 1. Rafale, 2. Typhoon, 3. Gripen, 4. F-22, 5. F-16, 6. F-15, F-35, 7. F-18. Gripen C’s lack of supercruise and situational awareness will likely make it less effective than the F-22 in combat (on platform level) due to these characteristics’ overwhelming importance, but its ease of maintenance and low cost might make it more effective than any of other fighters noted on battlefield level, as pilots need to train and human factor is more important than any technological factor.

As David Axe said, only thing that United States have always done well is not predict the next war. But he, as many others, draws a wrong conclusion from it.

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291 Responses to “Comparing modern Western fighters”

  1. David Archibald said

    Picard,

    You seem to the know the fate of every fighter in every engagement since World War II. The F-111s had a high loss rate in the Vietnam War. It is said that their powerful radar alerted the enemy 400 km away that they were coming. But what caused the losses isn’t said. Do you know if they were shot down by fighters or what?

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    • picard578 said

      Most losses in Vietnam war were caused by anti-aircraft defenses. I believe it was especially the problem for F-111 as it was a thin-skinned aircraft using radar for nap-of-the-earth flying. So it couldn’t hide because of the radar, yet couldn’t survive AAA because it was too thin-skinned (and giving a fast look to F-111 losses, most of them were indeed caused by AAA). Granted, its chances against fighters were no better, but North Vietnam didn’t have many of these.

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      • rnvalencia said

        Outside of SU-25 or A-10, most fighter airplanes are thin skinned.

        The Vietnam war has four out-comes
        1. improve dog fight e.g. F-16 or F-15
        2. stealth e.g. F-117
        3. A-10
        4. improve A2A missile e.g. Falklands War where inferior Harriers with then new AIM-9L A2A missiles shoots down superior French/Israeli fighter aircrafts.

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        • picard578 said

          There were many factors in Falklands war which contributed to British success, not just missiles. For one, Argentine aircraft only once attempted to even attack Harriers, and that one time they retreated without firing a shot. Rest of the time Harriers had a turkey shoot against bomb-loaded aircraft with no RWR, MAWS and with salt-encrusted canopies. Even if Argentine aircraft did notice they were being attacked, they had no fuel for evasive maneuvers, and British pilots had superior training.

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  2. […] Comparing modern Western fighters […]

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  3. […] Comparing modern Western fighters […]

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  4. […] Comparing modern Western fighters […]

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  5. […] Comparing modern Western fighters […]

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  6. Scott G. Walker said

    Totally wrong stats on your “achieve surprise without being surprised” values, which are by far the most important. Historically, 4 out of every 5 morts never saw their attacker or knew they were being attacked. That includes modern jet combat. Advantage 5th Gen, by at least 4 to 1.

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    • picard578 said

      You are correct that these are most important out of non-personnel factors (maintenance downtime and pilot interface are still more important) but so-called “5th generation” aircraft do not have any notable advantage in that when it comes to air-to-air combat – F-22 lacks IRST, F-35 lacks supercruise, and all of them have significant IR signature. Where they really are useful are AWACS destructrion and air combat / ground attack missions deep inside SAM-defended territory (assuming no HF/VHF radars are active in the area, in which case that advantage is significantly reduced).

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      • rnvalencia said

        F-35 has super cruise of Mach 1.2 which is less than F-22’s Mach >1.5 super cruise.

        Lockheed says a clean F-16, with only wingtip missiles, can reach Mach 1.1 without reheat. But the company says supercruise is defined as the ability to fly faster than Mach 1.5, in combat configuration. The USAF’s F-22 factsheet suggests it can supercruise at Mach 1.75.

        Lockheed Martin Corporation’s year 2010 stealth fiber material patent
        http://www.google.com/patents/US20100271253#v=onepage&q&f=false

        SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
        In some aspects, embodiments disclosed herein relate to a radar absorbing composite that includes a (CNT)-infused fiber material disposed in at least a portion of a matrix material. The composite is capable of absorbing radar in a frequency range from between about 0.10 Megahertz to about 60 Gigahertz. The CNT-infused fiber material forms a first layer that reduces radar reflectance and a second layer that dissipates the energy of the absorbed radar.

        LM’s year 2010 stealth fiber material patent is effective from 0.1 MHz to 60 Ghz which is included all VHF, L-band, S-Band, X-band, Ku-band

        P-Band – 30-100 cm (1-0.3 GHz)

        L-Band – 15-30 cm (2-1 GHz)

        S-Band – 8-15 cm (4-2 GHz)

        C-Band – 4-8 cm (8-4 GHz)

        X-Band – 2.5-4 cm (12-8 GHz)

        K-Band – Ku: 1.7-2.5 cm (18-12 GHz);

        Ka-Band: 0.75-1.2 cm (40-27 GHz).

        Note that VHF = Very High Frequency. LOL. VHF covers 30 MHz to 300 MHz

        http://theaviationist.com/2013/09/19/f-22-f-4-intercept/
        Iranian ground radar tracked and gave directions to Iranian F4s to intercept U.S. MQ-1 drone flying in international airspace off Iran, but Iran didn’t know about the drone’s F22 escort.

        “By international law, the notion of a country’s sovereign airspace corresponds with the maritime definition of territorial waters as being 12 nautical miles (22.2 km) out from a nation’s coastline.”

        Iran has 1L13 “Nebo” VHF radar, Kolchuga (VHF, UHF and SHF), Matla-ul-fajr (VHF), Gamma Radar (low frequency band), Vostok radar (VHF) and other radars, and it didn’t detect F22 threat.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          “F-35 has super cruise of Mach 1.2 which is less than F-22’s Mach >1.5 super cruise.”

          Which it can maintain for only 150 miles. Meaning that F-35s “supercruise” is either achieved with unusually low fuel state, or at low afterburner settings. In either case, it is not comparable to the F-16 / Gripen / Rafale / Typhoon / F-22 supercruise.

          “Lockheed says a clean F-16, with only wingtip missiles, can reach Mach 1.1 without reheat. But the company says supercruise is defined as the ability to fly faster than Mach 1.5, in combat configuration. The USAF’s F-22 factsheet suggests it can supercruise at Mach 1.75.”

          Correct about the F-16, and F-22, but Lockheed is bullshitting about the supercruise definition. Supercruise = supersonic cruise. The end. Only question is wether it is above Mach 1 or outside the transonic regime.

          “Note that VHF = Very High Frequency. LOL. VHF covers 30 MHz to 300 MHz”

          Even if what you noted is true (and it is extremely unlikely as mechanics of RAM coating performance prevent any effective absorption of wavelengths longer than few cm), RAM coating alone accounts for only 10-fold (one order of magnitude) RCS reduction at best.

          “Iran has 1L13 “Nebo” VHF radar, Kolchuga (VHF, UHF and SHF), Matla-ul-fajr (VHF), Gamma Radar (low frequency band), Vostok radar (VHF) and other radars, and it didn’t detect F22 threat.”

          Depends on how far the F-22 was and what type of radar was used to detect the drone. VHF gives better performance against stealth aircraft, necesarily comparable to performance against non-stealth aircraft.

          Like

  7. Chris Graham said

    I notice 2 different figures noted for the top speed of the Rafale in different articles, M 1.8 and M 2.0. Is there an engine upgrade with the latest Tranche 3 Rafale leading to higher max speed?

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    • picard578 said

      No, there is not. Mach 1,8 is the operational top speed (can be sustained as long as there is fuel), while Mach 2,0 is a dash speed which can only be achieved for a short time.

      Like

  8. David Archibald said

    The Australian Senate has started an inquiry into the F-35. This is the homepage:
    http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Foreign_Affairs_Defence_and_Trade/Joint_fighter

    It is accepting submissions now and submissions close on 19th February 2016. Anyone, anywhere on the planet can make a submission. This is the best opportunity most of us will have for defending Western Civilisation – killing off the F-35. The submissions will be available online and will be the best reference source on the ills of the F-35 and the merits of the alternatives. As Defense Industry Daily recently noted, confidence in the F-35 is waning. Outside the US, there are only 30 actually contracted for.

    Like

  9. Why not compare gripen C when saab is selling gripen NG to it’s costumers? It will have supercruise and meteor missiles,I have also heard that the new engine will lower fuel costs. Will it make it rank higher or will the added pricetag make it less disirable do you think?

    Like

    • picard578 said

      “Will it make it rank higher or will the added pricetag make it less disirable do you think?”

      That’s precisely why I didn’t compare it. Gripen E/F isn’t flying yet, only thing which exists is a proof-of-concept aircraft. All other fighters on the list are in service, or at least in serial production (LRIP, at the very least). So the answer to your question does not exist as of now.

      Just FYI, less well known fact is that Gripen A already had supercruise capability. Gripen C too, but only in favorable conditions, due to weight increase. Currently, Gripen A is my favorite fighter aircraft, with Rafale close second.

      Like

  10. […] Comparing modern Western fighters […]

    Like

  11. David Archibald said

    Air superiority fighters hold a party, F-35 not invited:
    http://breakingdefense.com/2015/12/f-22-typhoon-rafale-lessons-from-the-trilateral-wargame/

    Reading between the lines, the US has given up on the F-35 and have decided on the Rafale. They were at Langley so the Pentagon types could go down and touch it. The F-35 is mentioned only in passing. Thus the line up of generals to give a briefing. Note the discussion of the history of the Rafale and that it is up to date. I feel a tremor in the force.

    Like

    • ldutra said

      Never, just as France would not just adopt an US type. But the US could presumably develop its own Rafale – or Gripen. But I suspect after the F-35 débâcle they would avoid a single, mu!ltirrole type and go for simpler, more specialised types.

      Like

      • picard578 said

        I don’t think so. US brass have shown amazing ability to *not* learn from past mistakes. At best, we will see the STOVL requirement dropped.

        Like

      • ldutra said

        Yes, I guess only a defeat or a serious menace (as in the 1970s, with strategical defeat in Indochina and Africa, stagflation at home and serious menaces in Europe and the Americas) will give us anything like the F-16 once was, and the A-10 still is.

        A new F-16 would probably something like your proposals, I guess, which looks like a Gripen designed in the 2010s instead of the 1970s-80s; and the A-10 could just be updated, I guess; if the B-52 still has a future, so can the A-10. A thornier problem would be to either make the F-22 cheaper to afford or create a new air superiority and interception fighter.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          Indeed, current military system in many Western countries is inward-oriented; lack of a serious military threat and overestimation of their capabilities means that corporate benefits and interservice rivalries and budget wars take precendence over military capability. Plus, people in the West seem to be too materialistic, which is a general cultural problem that has a major impact on military thought and thus procurement. Too often I faced an argument that “more expensive = better” and that larger military budget secures victory.

          Like

    • rnvalencia said

      F-35 hasn’t reached Block 3F i.e. 9 G certified variant.

      Like

  12. rnvalencia said

    Super Hornet NATOPS turn rates
    http://www.f-16.net/forum/download/file.php?id=19308&sid=46db66c96e9be142336ab02bf3c234dd&mode=view
    At 270 to 300 knots, Super Hornet’s sustain turn rate is 30 degrees per second and it’s still has a higher angle of attack.

    Like

  13. rnvalencia said

    From http://www.boeing.com/boeing/defense-space/military/fa18ef/
    Super Hornet F-18E/F has unlimited angle-of-attack features.

    Like

  14. rnvalencia said

    http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/flight-test-dassault-rafale-rampant-rafale-334383/

    The DFCS is a “g” demand system with +9.0g/29° angle of attack (AoA) limit in air-to-air mode and +5.5g/20° AoA limit in both of the two air-to-ground/heavy stores modes (ST1 and ST2) to cater for forward or aft centre of gravity

    Like

  15. David Archibald said

    Two articles of mine:
    http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2016/01/5_reasons_why_our_f35s_are_too_dangerous_to_fly.html

    http://dailycaller.com/2016/01/22/american-gripen-the-solution-to-the-f-35-nightmare/

    And feedback from capable observers:

    “The argument for having a large fighter aircraft is that physics makes larger aircraft more capable.”

    I hate marketing talk such as “more capable”, “superior” etc. If you say fighter X is more capable than fighter Y, you have to define the criteria used. Comparing Gripen C and F-15E, Gripen is far superior in air-to-air combat, but the F-15E is still better bomb truck (in uncosntested areas, at least). Or even a more extreme example, A-10 has no ability whatsoever for air-to-air combat beyond helicopter hunting, but Gripen and other fast jets are similarly inept when it comes to providing close air support to troops in close contact.

    “This would produce an aircraft with a weight, acquisition cost and operating cost similar to that of the F-15.”

    I doubt it. YF-22 was simply a paint job in the general shape of the F-22, and I doubt YF-23 was any different. Production F-23 would have likely gained weight and cost, though as you point out, not using RAM coating would have given it avaliability, logistics and cost advantage over the F-22.

    And:

    Yes, Gripen has a very low drag design. As a matter of fact, I would say that its aerodynamics are superior to any other fighter in existence, even Rafale in some regards (drag, for example), though Rafale has a few advantages over Gripen too. Overall, Gripen, Rafale, F-16 and F-18 are the only Western fighters still in service which are aerodynamically optimized for dogfighting. Only other fighters designed with maneuvering combat in mind are F-15, F-22 and Typhoon, albeit in their case it is supersonic maneuver. F-4, Mirage (all variants), F-35, Tornado… none are designed for maneuver.

    Gripen is nonviable legacy tech long term. Cheap does not mean effective – I would take an F-15SE with IRST and APG-82 over a Gripen to fight the Su-35S any day. The short range of the Gripen forces you to cede the tactical initiative to the Su-35S operator.

    Apropos the YF-23 it was a better design than the YF-22A – in many ways. But it would cost billions to develop new avionics for it, versus maybe 500M to fully restart F-22 production. Apropos the age of F-22 avionics, the radars are brand new using the same module tech as the F-35 APG-81 and F/A-18E APG-79, and the central processors were ostensibly being updated as well. The cost and the timelines to do a tech refresh on the F-22A i.e. update avionics, update stealth coatings etc are much smaller than trying to reboot the YF-23A that should have been chosen in the first place.

    Like

    • picard578 said

      That’s from our correspondence…

      Like

    • ldutra said

      Some of them are not so capable, it seems. The F-23 would have the same issues as the F-22.

      As for the Gripen range, not only the C/D version does refuel in flight, and the E/F one has a much improved range which armchair pilots love to ignore, but it has a different concept: to operate from short stretches of road located near where it is needed.

      Like

  16. […] Rating is thus 1. Rafale, 2. Gripen, 3. F-22, 4. Typhoon, 5. F-16, 6. F-15, 7. F-35, 8. F-18. https://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/comparing-modern-western-fighters/ […]

    Like

  17. Y said

    Mr.Picard, I’m impressed about tour “sortiesxday” evaluation. Which hypotesis did you fix reasonable To get thst result? Youshould have fixed a kind of “standard sortie time” in hours, h, and a kind of “maintenance time per h flown” .
    ?

    Like

  18. Fredrik Hansson said

    Pretty spot on comparison but there is a lot more to compare than just fighting capabilities. I always thought Rafale is the aircraft Typhoon should have been. The French was probably thinking, guys (Germans, Brittish etc) what are you doing? This is how it shall be.. Compairing price I think SAAB Gripen is an awesome plane for the money. Also take in acount it was designed for Swedish conditions where the main criteria was STOL capabilities. A fully loaded Gripen C/D can start and land in 800 m (below 2000 ft) which is half of what F18 requires. F35 requires 8000+ ft runway in CTOL version. In Sweden there is a lot of public roads that can be used as temporary arifields and therefore Gripen is designed to be able to do a full service (even switch engine!) on a public road.

    Like

    • picard578 said

      “Pretty spot on comparison but there is a lot more to compare than just fighting capabilities. ”

      Indeed. Training and ease of use are even more important than just technical abilities; that is why I love Gripen.

      “I always thought Rafale is the aircraft Typhoon should have been. The French was probably thinking, guys (Germans, Brittish etc) what are you doing?”

      They were. In fact, they wanted the design lead, and if I’m not wrong they got it but opted out because other nations did not want a carrier-capable aircraft, as well as wanting to preserve SNECMA’s engine design abilities (new aircraft would have used British Rolls-Royce engine).

      “Compairing price I think SAAB Gripen is an awesome plane for the money.”

      True.

      “Also take in acount it was designed for Swedish conditions where the main criteria was STOL capabilities. A fully loaded Gripen C/D can start and land in 800 m (below 2000 ft) which is half of what F18 requires. F35 requires 8000+ ft runway in CTOL version. In Sweden there is a lot of public roads that can be used as temporary arifields and therefore Gripen is designed to be able to do a full service (even switch engine!) on a public road.”

      Yes, I sometimes say that Gripen is a fighter designed to fight a war, whereas other Western fighters are designed to perform at air shows. Rafale might be capable of road operations, seeing how F-18 can do it as well, but both have too large logistical footprint. Especially F-18. F-22 and F-35 can’t operate without specialized air bases, which makes them useless in a real war, where air bases would be destroyed. F-15 and Typhoon likely face the same issue as well, F-16 may be able to operate from road bases but I have never found any indication of it. Frankly, if you give me a choice of MiG-21 or F-22 for an air force I would choose MiG-21, for this reason only.

      I wrote a “Modern fighter aircraft comparison” article as well, it expands on this one, so you might want to read it.

      Like

  19. Mustang said

    Total Rafale bias here, no mention of Mica being unproven missile while AIM-120 is the most effective BVR missile in history, for this all teen fighters, Gripen and Typhoon should be ahead of Rafale. IR missiles are end game because of BVR positional advantge gained from radar missiles.

    Gun energy why is that important, fire rate yes would be important for snap shots but energy is clutching at straws for another Rafale 1st. Rafale in a true comparison of gun effectivness would finish last.

    You don’t even discuss radar power which would see Rafale knocked down a few. And your STR and ITR are purely speculative and so close that hairs can be drawn but you give Rafale the props.

    You even say Typhoon accelerates faster than Rafale but then give Rafale 2nd, Typhoon 3rd.
    Rafale has poor thrust to weight ratio, less climb rate and lower ceiling, in BVR this is critical for gaining advantages.

    So many holes here one true fact though is you bias towards Rafale.

    Like

    • picard578 said

      “Total Rafale bias here, no mention of Mica being unproven missile while AIM-120 is the most effective BVR missile in history,”

      Most effective according to what measures…? Shooting down unaware no-energy aircraft that were helpfully climbing into the missiles? One or two times this rule did not apply, targeted fighters successfully evaded missiles despite all the handicaps.

      “”for this all teen fighters, Gripen and Typhoon should be ahead of Rafale. IR missiles are end game because of BVR positional advantge gained from radar missiles. ”

      If you are thinking only in terms of fighting Arab air forces, maybe. Against actually competent enemies, surprise advantage and resistence to jamming gained by a combination of IRST and IR BVRAAM is far more valuable.

      “Gun energy why is that important”

      That should have been obvious… destroying the enemy in the shortest time avaliable. In dogfight you only get an opportunity for snapshots, and even then not the entire burst might hit. That is why European air forces chose revolver cannons, while USAF contnues with the M61 that is designed for usage against nonmaneuvering targets.

      “You even say Typhoon accelerates faster than Rafale but then give Rafale 2nd, Typhoon 3rd.”

      I combined measures for the “normal” and air policing configurations. Typhoon’s rather marginal advantage in standard configuration is not enough to offset Rafale’s advantage in air policing configuration.

      “Rafale has poor thrust to weight ratio, less climb rate and lower ceiling, in BVR this is critical for gaining advantages.”

      I wasn’t aware that 1,2 TWR at combat weight is “poor”… and Typhoon has a climb rate advantage of 10 m/s. Only service ceilling will actually give Typhoon noticeable advantage.

      Like

  20. Joaquin said

    Hey, Picard578, how does the actual Gripen C/D compare to latest F-16 (block 50 or 60) in turns of aerodynamic capabilities and agility?
    Thanks in advance.

    Like

    • picard578 said

      Gripen should have better instantaneous turn, roll, turn and roll onset rates, while F-16 should have better acceleration and climb rates. Basically, Gripen should have advantage in transient performance while F-16 should have advantage in energy performance.

      Like

      • Joaquin said

        Thanks for your answer and sorry for misspelling “in terms of” :P.
        From what you say, it appears that, by having a better ITR and roll rate (plus, adequate HOBS missiles/HMS), Gripen may have an advantage in WVR engagements unless F-16 manages to dodge initial attack and turns that fight into a turn-fight as the Gripen burns all its energy using its instantaneous turn capabilities.
        But, how would they compare in BVR engagements? (taking into account, again, aerodynamics, since flying higher and faster…)
        Finally, I guess F-16 does have an advantage when it comes to ground attack/SEAD missions, right?
        Thanks again, Picard.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          “Gripen may have an advantage in WVR engagements unless F-16 manages to dodge initial attack and turns that fight into a turn-fight as the Gripen burns all its energy using its instantaneous turn capabilities.”

          Yes.

          “But, how would they compare in BVR engagements? (taking into account, again, aerodynamics, since flying higher and faster…)”

          Both aircraft have an issue of not having optical sensors, so reliable BVR ID will be problematic (that however will be solved with Gripen E/F). As far as E-M goes, Gripen has slightly higher cruise speed (Mach 1,2 vs Mach 1,1 with 2 missiles – which is basically a clean configuration for both aircraft, and that is Gripen C vs F-16A; F-16C should be slower than A due to higher wing loading and thus higher drag – higher AoA necessary to maintain level flight; difference however would be reduced once underwing BVR missiles are added); identical top speed (Mach 2,0); identical service ceiling and climb rate (50.000 ft / 254 m/s for both), albeit F-16 might have slight advantage there. Gripen has higher sustained turn rate – 20 deg/s vs 18 deg/s – which shows that it would also lose less energy in equally fast instantaneous turn; but it also has higher instantaneous turn rate (30 deg/s vs 26 deg/s), and should have superior transient performance due to close-coupled canard configuration. Gripen’s radar has slightly longer range (80 vs 70 km vs 1m2 target) and Gripen itself should have superior EW suite (GaN emitters, though they may not be used on Gripen C, and Swedish EW suites in general tend to be excellent). I believe that Gripen can use MICA IR, which has range advantage over AIM-9X (80 km vs 32 km; AIM-9X was supposed to have its range extended to 50 km but IIRC that was cancelled). This is important since RF missiles will get jammed.

          “Finally, I guess F-16 does have an advantage when it comes to ground attack/SEAD missions, right?”

          Ground attack certainly (higher payload), not sure about SEAD – as I mentioned, Gripen has superior EW suite, and its close-coupled canard configuration mght allow it higher speeds close to the ground (on the other hand, F-16s higher wing loading has the same effect of allowing higher speeds close to the ground, so Gripen may not have an advantage in that area). And I’m not sure about what selection of pods and weapons each aircraft has for that mission (I was always far more interested in CAS than in other ground attack missions), so advantage in SEAD might swing either way.

          Like

      • Joaquin said

        Thanks again.

        “Gripen has slightly higher cruise speed (Mach 1,2 vs Mach 1,1 with 2 missiles”

        I guess that was taken from this article: https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/saab-celebrates-supercruise-test-success-for-gripen-321428/
        But, isn’t that the E/F demonstrator?

        “while F-16 should have better acceleration and climb rates”
        or
        “identical service ceiling and climb rate (50.000 ft / 254 m/s for both), albeit F-16 might have slight advantage there”

        Let aside the contradiction in your statements, as far as I understand, climb rate is a more accurate indicator of the acceleration capabilities of an aircraft than T/W ratio (since it takes into account lift and drag coefficients). If we assume the climb-rate data to be correct (and equal, as shown here and in many websites), does that mean that both fighters have the same acceleration (same ability to gain/sustain energy)?

        “Gripen has higher sustained turn rate – 20 deg/s vs 18 deg/s”
        Even though you just said that my statement about F-16 being a better turn-fighter was right, lets focus on this quote. Having a better STR while having a much worse T/W ratio means that its reduced drag compensate for that lack of engine power?
        I would like to know the source of that “20 º/s” figure. It sounds very impressive given its “insufficient” thrust. Not that I dont trust you, just that I would love to be able to access that kind of information.

        Regard,

        Joaquin.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          “I guess that was taken from this article: https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/saab-celebrates-supercruise-test-success-for-gripen-321428/
          But, isn’t that the E/F demonstrator? ”

          No. Gripen A could already supercruise, and figures I used are for C (unless I made a mistake and figures are actually for A, which is a possibility). To be more specific, source for Mach 1,2 supercruise with 2 missiles is this:
          http://s146.photobucket.com/user/sampaix/media/gripensupercruise3br.jpg.html
          It is from June 2001

          Difference is that Gripen C can only supercruise at Mach 1,2 in clean configuration (2 wingtip AAMs), whereas Gripen NG can supercruise in full combat configuration. Gripen Cs supercruise speed in combat configuration (6 AAM + centerline tank) is Mach 1,05.

          IIRC, there was a statement which basically said that “Gripen E will *regain* the supercruise capability which was present in Gripen A”, or something to that effect. Gripen C got heavier than A due to increased multirole requirements (6.800 vs 6.600 kg empty, 2.400 vs 2.270 kg standard internal fuel), so that hurt its supercruise capability.

          “Let aside the contradiction in your statements, as far as I understand, climb rate is a more accurate indicator of the acceleration capabilities of an aircraft than T/W ratio (since it takes into account lift and drag coefficients). If we assume the climb-rate data to be correct (and equal, as shown here and in many websites), does that mean that both fighters have the same acceleration (same ability to gain/sustain energy)?”

          Probably. F-16 *should* have better acceleration if you take a look at just figures for TWR etc., but Gripen has superior aerodynamics and lower wing loading which negates F-16s brute force advantages. So my statements don’t exactly contradict… it should have it, but it doesn’t. On the other hand, cruise speed might actually be better indicator of level-flight acceleration, but even that is suspect due to differing drag characteristics that different aircraft have in various flight regimes (subsonic, transonic and supersonic; advantage in one flight regime does not necessarily imply advantage in others).

          “Even though you just said that my statement about F-16 being a better turn-fighter was right, lets focus on this quote. Having a better STR while having a much worse T/W ratio means that its reduced drag compensate for that lack of engine power?”

          Yes. I was under impression that Gripen loses more energy than F-16 in turn, but seems that impression was wrong – assuming of course that STR figures are correct. And yes, Gripen is one of the least draggy – quite likely *the* least draggy – Western fighters. I was basing my conclusion of the F-16 being better *energy* fighter than Gripen mainly off its higher climb rate – but even that is correct only for F-16A, not the F-16C (climb rate is 315 m/s for F-16A, 254 m/s for F-16C and 254 m/s for Gripen C).

          “I would like to know the source of that “20 º/s” figure. It sounds very impressive given its “insufficient” thrust. Not that I dont trust you, just that I would love to be able to access that kind of information. ”

          http://www.fighter-planes.com/info/jas39.htm
          http://www.dept.aoe.vt.edu/~mason/Mason_f/F22S06.pdf

          I didn’t find any “official” sources, but so far I have found nothing to contradict them either. Figures in the second document might not be correct: document places Rafale’s STR at ~20 deg/s, while it seems that it actually achieved 24 deg/s:
          http://www.business-standard.com/article/beyond-business/the-rafale-s-long-flight-to-india-112021100007_1.html
          “If IAF demanded a “sustained turn rate” (the quickness with which a fighter can turn around in the air) of 24 degrees per second, each fighter was physically put through this manoeuvre to establish that it met this requirement. (Incidentally, both the US fighters failed to meet IAF’s “sustained turn rate” requirements)”

          Like

      • Joaquin said

        Very interesting sources! Thanks for sharing, Picard.

        “but even that is correct only for F-16A, not the F-16C (climb rate is 315 m/s for F-16A, 254 m/s for F-16C and 254 m/s for Gripen C).”

        I know that Gripen´s climb rate is said to be 254 m/s (though it doesn’t say at which altitude and speed) but the same source you gave me shows the following figures: “Less than 2 minutes from brake release to 10 km (33,000 ft), approx. 3 minutes to 14 km (46,000 ft)”. That means a minimum average climb rate of 83 m/s (between brake release to 10000), and a minimum average climb rate of aprox. 78 m/s (between brake release until it reaches 14000).
        Apart from a couple of source-less posts in certain forums, I’ve not been able to find similar data for the F-16C/D (or more advanced versions). Do you have comparable data for the Viper? That would probably give us a more accurate measurement.

        “If IAF demanded a “sustained turn rate” (the quickness with which a fighter can turn around in the air) of 24 degrees per second, each fighter was physically put through this maneuver to establish that it met this requirement. (Incidentally, both the US fighters failed to meet IAF’s “sustained turn rate” requirements)”
        Wow, this is pretty impressive. Rafale has at least a 5/6 º/s advantage over older F-16 versions. That plus HOBS missiles (and its major advantage in ITR, let aside IRST and other sensors that might help before the merge) and the Viper no chance.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          “I know that Gripen´s climb rate is said to be 254 m/s (though it doesn’t say at which altitude and speed) but the same source you gave me shows the following figures: “Less than 2 minutes from brake release to 10 km (33,000 ft), approx. 3 minutes to 14 km (46,000 ft)”. That means a minimum average climb rate of 83 m/s (between brake release to 10000), and a minimum average climb rate of aprox. 78 m/s (between brake release until it reaches 14000).”

          Typical climb rate figures (such as Gripen’s 254 m/s) are sea level figures. As altitude increases, and air gets thinner, both lift and thrust decrease. Since gravity does not change as much, climb rate gets steadily lower. It is a curve, basically.

          “Apart from a couple of source-less posts in certain forums, I’ve not been able to find similar data for the F-16C/D (or more advanced versions). Do you have comparable data for the Viper? That would probably give us a more accurate measurement.”

          254 m/s, IIRC. Not sure where I found it, I assembled my notes first from Wikipedia and then updated and fixed values as I found other sources (Wikipedia is hardly reliable). Unfortunately, I did not start keeping track of my sources until relatively recently (I originally found it too much of a hassle).

          “Wow, this is pretty impressive. Rafale has at least a 5/6 º/s advantage over older F-16 versions. That plus HOBS missiles (and its major advantage in ITR, let aside IRST and other sensors that might help before the merge) and the Viper no chance.”

          Agreed. IIRC, F-16A has 12,8 deg/s sustained turn rate, and F-16C has 18 deg/s sustained turn rate. So 6-11 deg/s advantage.

          Like

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